ForumOne Communications has been hosting a series of high quality events for professionals in the Online Community business world for many years. Jim Cashel and Bill Johnston created another great event this year in Sonoma. The event tends to attract people who are actively managing an online community or social media space, either internal to an enterprise or public facing on the Internet. One big segment of the group are focused on support applications of question and answer communities, often for technologies that have complex troubleshooting issues. Software and computer hardware are big examples and several companies were represented who used web boards and other discussion and media sharing tools to avoid the great costs of direct 1:1 support. Others represented social networking or social media generation services. Here the goals are to “crowdsource” a resource, like a ranked list of valuable web sites and news articles or a set of professional relationships.
A pioneer of the field, Randy Farmer was in attendance and spoke about lessons and categories of reputation systems. Randy has experience in this field, having built what could be the very first graphical virtual world. Some of his observations from those early days of virtual, online, interaction bear re-reading even in today’s megabit broadband world. Looking back, it is amazing how much of the virtual world package of features could be constructed from Commodore 64s and dial-up modems and how quickly all the social issues emerged, even at 300 baud. Randy is working on a book on the subject at http://buildingreputation.com/.
One of the best quips of the conference was from Bill Schreiner from Folio Investing who noted that in the “old days” you used the phone to get to the Internet and that today we use the internet to get to a phone call. The technology is indeed disruptive!
Sylvia Marino has been managing the communities at Edmunds.com for more than a decade and had useful (if not flattering) things to say about the state of sentiment analysis. Her preference is to work with moderators who personally do read nearly all messages and deeply understand the topics of interest and attitudes of the community.
A stand out presentation came from Jen Burton from Digg.com whose talk about the nature of managing a huge community of contributors was insightful and funny. Her suggestion to treasure the happy moments when they come is sound, as well as the warning to avoid getting sucked into conflicts with a minority of users who have time on their hands.
Nova Spivack presented an overview of Twine and its stages of growth with its community. Twine as I understand it is a kind of super charged version of a system like del.icio.us that uses natural language processing and a web crawler to build a more useful set of pointers to a web page than is created by a standard entry in del.icio.us.
More photos on flickr.